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Healthy Risk?
Power of Rhetoric
1/23/2012 9:00:00 AM
Proctor's English Department welcomed writer and rhetoric expert, Jay Heinrich, to campus Thursday morning. Jay, who spent the past 26 years as a writer, editor, and publishing executive, now devotes his time to teaching the power of rhetoric.

Rhetoric, in classic oratory, is the art of influencing the thought and conduct of others through prose, verse or speech. Heinrich spoke to the entire community during assembly, discussing different statement types, and then polling the audience to see which appeal can be most effective (logos, pathos, or ethos). We all eventually settled on ethos (or character) being the most complete form of rhetoric as it is most likely to inspire action, rather than simply building on logic or evoking emotion in an audience.

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English Department Chair Shauna Turnbull hosted Heinrich for the day, inviting him to lead a conversation with the two AP Language and Composition classes and Lynne Kenney's Leadership and Ethics course (more on that class coming soon!) around the power of rhetoric and the importance of fully understanding that power in their own lives.

The workshop, like Heinrich's book, Thank You For Arguing, and website, not only focused on defining rhetoric, but on helping students understand how they can be influenced by rhetoric in the media unless they are conscious of its power. For the entire second half of the workshop, students wrestled with how they could effectively use rhetoric to curb negative behaviors in the Wise Center and other common areas on campus. Students left the workshop empowered with knowledge that will make them more educated consumers of information in the future.

While Heinrich led his workshop on rhetoric during B and C blocks Thursday, Mark Tremblay's American Literature students were giving their first round of speeches in the Hay's Speaking Contest.

Each winter, sophomore English classes devote a significant portion of their curriculum having students develop five minute speeches. Teachers spend countless hours helping each student brainstorm a meaningful topic to which they feel personally connected. Students then work through multiple drafts of speeches, using both teacher and peer-review, before discussing delivery techniques.

Eventually, students stand before their peers and present their speech as classmates listen and evaluate the speaker on his or her content, delivery, and originality of topic. Each class then selects one student to represent it in the Hay's Speaking contest, which will be held for the whole community.

Jay Heinrich's visit meshed well with the delivery of Hay's Speeches, as each student preparing a speech had new insights into how to best utilize word choice, tense, and phrasing. Coincidentally, last year's Hay's Speaking Contest winner, Jacob (pictured above), eloquently discussed the power of rhetoric in his speech, while Meaghan offered this speech to her class Thursday, using effective rhetoric as she encouraged her classmates to clearly define happiness in their own lives.

Class representatives (like the last year's finalists above) will be selected in the coming days and those whose speech most inspired will continue to be revised and rehearsed during the coming week. We encourage you to join us for the Hay's Speaking contest on the evening of February 2nd in the Norris Theater
Author and teacher Jay Heinrich visited campus last Thursday, sharing his expertise on the power of rhetoric.
Adolescents today consume millions of pieces of information each day, most of which comes from various media sources.
Heinrich helped students understand how to most effectively use rhetoric to persuade someone of a given opinion, but more importantly, implored students to be aware of the rhetoric used by those around them in the information they consume.
Over the past week, American Literature students tried their hand at effectively using rhetoric as the first round of the Hay's Speaking Contest afforded every American Literature student the opportunity to prepare and deliver a five minute speech to his or her class.